Fitness Focus—Nobody Likes a Pain in the Neck!

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      Are race car drivers athletes? You bet! Anyone who’s spent some time behind the wheel on the racetrack can certainly tell you that you’ll be worn out at the end of a long day. Elevated heart rate, sweat rate, arm pump and more all contribute to fatigue. In this installment, we’ll focus on the neck muscles and the beating they take on the race track.

    In physical terms, the average head and helmet weigh about 15 pounds. If your car can generate 1 G of cornering force that means that you’re experiencing that same amount of weight pushing on the side of your head. There are plenty of street cars sold today that can generate that kind of force. As you move into race cars with racing-slick tires, cornering forces shoot up. Add wing and downforce and now the forces jump even higher. But wait there’s more. Add in some banking to those corners and you have an incredible strain that no driver can withstand over a long time. To make it more challenging, when you do have a car with significant downforce, those cars are also very stiffly sprung. Driving over bumps in the middle of corners jolt the neck and generate peak loads of neck strain. Current Indy cars can exceed 5 Gs sustained at oval tracks. That’s the equivalent of laying on your side and having a 75 pound person standing on your head!

     How do the drivers train for this? Fortunately there are machines in the gym to do this. Forward and backward movements prepare the neck for braking and acceleration forces while side-to-sid training is for the turns. Some machines use weighted plates while others use a shock absorber set up. Additionally, a personal trainer can hold one end of a neck harness and pull in different directions while the driver is working to withstand those forces. Furthermore, the trainer can add in vibrational shock to simulate the bumps in the corners. There are also secondary surroundig muscles that come into play however a well-planned workout routine will address those to help the driver withstand the abuse.

     There’s no substitute for actually driving, however that would cost thousands of dollars per day. Some drivers own go-karts and can pound laps all day for a much lower cost and that can certainly help. If you’re planning on taking up racing, prepare a bit first with some isometric exercises at home.

     After all, nobody likes a pain in the neck!

 

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

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Back To School Track Day @ Big Willow

Photo by Larry Mason

     It was a great day on Saturday, September 4, 2021 when Fast Lane Racing School hosted a track day for former students, friends and family. Also included were racers from the Sports Car Club of America’s Cal Club region and from the Vintage Auto Racing Association. All those present got together to spend time pounding laps around the “Fastest Road in the West” – Willow Springs International Raceway. There were three run groups that comprised beginner/intermediate, advanced and an open wheel group that rotated every 20 minutes for their on-track sessions during the day. In between sessions, Fast Lane instructors were there to coach and encourage the participants in their quest for speed around the track. 

93Lola WIRPhoto by Larry Mason

      It certainly wasn’t your typical track day as the variety of cars was extensive combining high performance vehicles and open-wheel formula cars and open cockpit sports racing machines. Additionally, it also marked the debut of the Fast Lane Racing School Indy Lights race car on track. The Buick-powered 93 Lola chassis weighs about 1400 pounds and puts out approximately 425 HP! The straightaways get real short with a car like this! Just think, you could be driving this fantastic race car at a future Fast Lane school! 

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     The FSE LA group came out with their beautifully presented Formula 4 race cars and spent the day exciting the onlookers with such cool and fast race cars. There were numerous high performance and exotic cars on track including Ferrari, McLaren, BMW, Porsche and Lamborghini along with American muscle cars like Mustang, Corvette and even a Cobra Daytona coupe. Along with a couple of Fast Lane Pace Cars and Scion FRS Pro/Celebrity cars from the Grand Prix of Long Beach, everyone was able to get behind the wheel even if you didn’t drive a stick shift.

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     The morning started off with registration where everyone was treated to a free T-shirt commemorating the day, a lunch ticket, wristband and sticker denoting the run group. A driver’s meeting in front of the cafeteria followed going over procedures, flags and safety information. A free lunch was included in the price of admission and featured track day favorites like hot dogs and hamburgers, along with a trio of salads – potato, regular and fruit. Apple and peach cobbler for dessert made for some full bellies. A cooler filled with water and soft drinks helped wash everything down.

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       The next Fast Lane Track Day is scheduled for October 31st on the “Streets of Willow” track just behind the big track. If it’s anything like the first one, this will definitely be a treat and not a trick. We look forward to seeing you there! For more information contact Fast Lane today!

 

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

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Heart Rate Training for Motorsports Part II

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In the last blog, we discussed the basics of how the monitors work and how you can use them in your race car to track where your heart rate goes during a race. Today, we’ll take a closer look at training zones and actual heart rate data.

Once you’ve found your maximum heart rate, you can then start looking at training zones with zone 1 being the easiest and zone 5 the hardest. The chart below shows the different zones graphically as a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

fullsizeoutput 7                    Heart rate training zones courtesy of Polar

 

Taking a look at my HR data from a previous race (below), you can see that the heart rate spikes and falls with different points in time. From sitting on the grid, it’s relatively calm, but then jumps up for the warm-up laps. When the green flag drops, the HR spikes up again and stays elevated until a full course caution comes out where it drops again. At the re-start, my HR jumps up again and averages about 150 bpm during the green flag laps. Right before the checkered flag my HR peaks at 168 bpm where I’m battling for a podium position. After the checkered flag you can see the HR plummet as the race is over.

 

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  For the majority of the time, I’m racing in the “Hard” zone or zone 4. This means that my cardiovascular exercise routine outside the car should also be focused at this intensity. There is a popular type of training these days known as HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. This is where you train in zone 5 and then drop down to zones 1 or 2 to recover and keep repeating for the duration of your workout. Keep in mind that this type of training isn’t for everyone, but in some cases this could be a valuable way to simulate the spikes of green flag versus caution flag racing and conditions your body to be able to accept the higher heart rates without too much fatigue.

  The bottom line of measuring and training with heart rate is to have the physical stamina to withstand the rigors of racing. This way your brain is still focused on racing and not on how tired and out of breath you are!

 

Note: Before beginning any fitness program, obtain your medical doctor’s clearance.

Larry Mason is an ACE-certified personal trainer and a brand ambassador for Polar. He has been training and racing with Polar heart rate monitors since 1994. He’s won multiple auto racing championships in many different classes of competition. He competes in sprint triathlons to stay in shape for auto racing. He can be found teaching multiple programs at Fast Lane Racing School.

Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason

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History of VARA

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  Vintage Auto Racing Association (VARA) is a long-established organization devoted to racing vintage cars. The rules generally require that the cars racing with VARA be more than 20 years old. In theory, a 2001 car could now be considered vintage. However, most of the cars VARA members race are from th heyday of road racing in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. More modern cars can be seen in the sports racing and formula categories.

  Rules for participation in some race designations require the cars be built, rebuilt, or restored to the specifications that existed at the time the car was raced. Upgrades to engines, brakes, and other for modifications can be made, changing the car’s class designation. Based upon personal experience and looking at the smiling faces at the end of races, upgrades can enhance the “fun” factor, even if it is not truly authentic. For example, an Austin Healy Sprite (the Bug Eye or Frog Eye), came with a 998 cc engine. A Sprite with a 998 cc engine would race in the H Production (HP) class. If you upgraded the engine to a 1275 cc it would be raced in the E Production (EP) class.
  In VARA, there is a place for each and every vintage car. We see everything from an old Sprite, to a classic Fiat Arbath, a Jensen Healy, or even Rusty Wallace’s old #2 car from NASCAR. VARA has a place for each and the driver who wants to enjoy their vintage race car. Often you can see a car and driver with a vintage race car in a VARA event, and then the next weekend, the same driver participates in an SCCA event, if the car meets the rules for both organizations and classes. Driver safety in both VARA and SCCA are a top priority.
  VARA is unique in that it’s a true membership club, electing its own leaders and board of directors. VARA’s main focus is on providing friendly competition and a fun racing experience for its members and its guests.
  VARA races usually draw more than 100 entries. It is a joy to see truly significant and special vintage race cars being used as they were designed. Many run groups are populated with several classes, and in other groups, they are single class groups, such as Formula Ford, and B Sedan, sometimes referred to as the “Killer Bs.” Due to the high value of the cars, contact between racers is not allowed. Drivers etiquette includes giving other drivers a “VARA bubble,” with plenty of racing room. While not purely demonstration driving, VARA racing is done carefully with respect for cars and drivers.
VARA has three general paths to competition. One is obtaining a competition racing license, through their 3/6/9 ladder system (details can be found at VARAracing.com). A key part of obtaining a license is attending the VARA University. VARA University is a multi-function two-day track experience designed for all interested in racing vintage cars, including fledgling drivers, street driving enthusiasts, as well as current wheel-to-wheel competition drivers and their race cars. Taught by well-respected VARA instructors, this outstanding program and weekend will be held in July this year, due to COVID (normally it is held each February).
  Fast Lane instructors support the training, and Fast Lane rents cars for those who need but don’t have a race car. The second path to racing in a VARA event standing reciprocity for holders of a full competition license from SCCA, NASA, and many other organizations. That reciprocity requires attending a “ground school” the night before the event, to insure the VARA rules are fully transmitted, differences from other venues explained, and an evaluation of experience by the Chief Driving Instructor. The third path is to attend the Fast Lane Racing License program, pass and advance immediately to the eighth step of the VARA 3/6/9 program, and obtain your full competition license in a weekend of racing and four days of training. Vintage racing is fun, satisfying and connects the past to the present.

VARAracing.com

Steve Staveley, Chief Steward VARA Rod Susman, Chief Driving Instructor VARA
Fast Lane Lead Instructor.

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Heart Rate Training for Motorsports

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  Auto racing has always been a sport known for pushing the limits to the extreme to gain a winning advantage. In today’s arena, it’s all about data. Engineers track vehicle speed, rpm, g-force and a multitude of other data to help improve the set-up of the car to ultimately lead the driver to a quicker lap time. But what about the driver? For less than you might think we can track the driver’s heart rate during competition. The goal is to help the driver physically train at the proper intensity outside the car to prepare for greater success on the track. In Dr. Harlen Hunter’s book Motorsports Medicine, he asks the questions, “Ever notice that the last set of tires put on a race car during a long race tends to be the worst set of the day? Ever wonder how many of the disappointing finishes blamed on used-up tires really result from used-up drivers?” Sometimes we get so caught up on the race car prep side of things that we forget about “tuning up” the driver.

    Numerous studies have proven that race car drivers are athletes based on heart rate, g-force, heat and other factors encountered inside the car. Not only are the consequences severe if the driver makes a mistake, but the associated costs are as well. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at how and why we should get data and what to do with it once we have it.

  There are numerous heart rate monitors available in the marketplace. Polar has led the way in technological innovations and heart rate monitors since 1977. The traditional monitor itself is comprised of a chest strap transmitter and wristwatch receiver/monitor. The chest strap transmits ECG accurate data to the receiver whereby it can be displayed as heart rate in beats per minute (bpm), percentage of maximum heart rate, or specific training zone. Today’s monitors are optically activated either on the watch itself or via an arm strap. 

  The old standby rule of thumb to calculate max heart rate is 220 minus your age for males and 226 minus your age for females. However this number can vary widely based on a number of individual factors including current state of fitness, prescription drugs being taken, etc. The best (and safest) way
to find your maximum heart rate is to have a VO2 Max test done at a facility with advanced cardiac life support personnel and equipment on hand.

  To measure your heart rate while racing, simply record your session on your monitor and look at/download the data after the race. As cool and calm as you think you might be behind the wheel, you may find that your heart rate is much higher than you ever would have thought. Once you’ve seen the
results, then this gives you a starting point to develop a training plan away from the race track to be better prepared for your next event.

  In the next installment, we’ll take a look at some actual in-car heart rate data and see how that varies
during a race.

 

 Larry Mason is an ACE-certified personal trainer and a brand ambassador for Polar. He has been training and racing with Polar heart rate monitors since 1994. He’s won multiple auto racing championships in many different classes of competition. He competes in sprint triathlons to stay in shape for auto racing. He can be found teaching multiple programs at Fast Lane Racing School.

Copyright © 2021 By Larry Mason - Instuctor, FastLane Racing School

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